see chap. 1 for notes, disclaimer
Source Of All Things + Chapter 4
Heero wasn't looking at the
mass of muscle and steel approaching him. He was glaring at Trowa's sword.
He started swishing it a bit, back and forth. He jabbed with it, then
shook it some more, as if it wasn't working like he expected.
"Er-" Duo squeaked. The boss was almost upon the young man.
Heero didn't lift his head, merely dodged the first blow that hammered
into the ground where he'd been with enough force to crack the packed
dirt, raising a veil of dust in the air. The huge sword immediately slashed
sideways, much faster than any of the others anticipated. Trowa's mouth
went dry as he re-evaluated their opponent once again. Unlike Quatre,
Trowa had heard a bit about Shinigami and he didn't think this was him,
the mysterious one's reputation as a thief and a killer was something
else again, but the giant wasn't any slouch with that big pig-sticker
of his either.
But Heero... wasn't there. The boss staggered and stared at the young
man who was several feet away from him. The boss had moved surprisingly
fast. Heero's speed had been uncanny. And he was still looking at Trowa's
sword, with a disappointed scowl.
"Heero forget the damn sword already and fight!" Duo suddenly shouted,
carefully putting the rock between himself and the warriors. The boss
gave the young man one cruel glance and grinned like a feral animal, then
turned back towards Heero who was now nodding.
As the boss charged, he tossed the sword aside.
Maxwell's screech of alarm had barely left the young man's lips Trowa
swung up his crossbow but didn't have a clear shot, neither did Quatre
with his mana bolt- Heero had ducked under the guard of the down-swinging
sword, caught the sword-arm and brought it down against his knee with
the force of the raging river Reg nearby.
The magical armour was tougher than steel. It shattered. The bone beneath
it didn't stand a chance. It ripped up through flesh and skin until it
hit the remains of the armour in which it embedded.
The boss howled and swung a fist at Heero, who dodged it without looking.
He dropped the mangled arm and struck straight out with his elbow, knocking
the bandit back. Then he spun in an elegant circle, and his foot smashed
against the man's side, sending him crashing to the ground.
The boss managed to roll onto his knees, his face ashen beneath the twisted
spiral of scars on his face. Heero was already upon him. This time the
blow was prepared and had his full weight behind it.
Even Trowa winced as the man's chest plate was smashed, throwing him back
three feet despite his mass. The huge man chocked and coughed blood. Heero
"No." Quatre whimpered.
- walked towards him with the same steady pace, grabbed him by the neck,
lifting him effortlessly to his knees, right fist drawn back to deliver
a devastating final punch to the man's face.
"Heero no don't!" Quatre screamed.
Heero's fist stayed poised in the air. For a few long seconds he stood
there. His left hand was the only thing keeping the bandit on his knees.
It didn't tremble in the slightest.
Then he dropped the bandit and turned around.
Duo made a noise of protest in his throat, as the bandit twitched, then
crawled to his knees and, without a backward glance, staggered to his
feet and, clutching his badly injured arm, limped away.
Heero didn't seem to notice. He walked back to where the fight had started
and picked up the shotgun and Trowa's sword, which he began to clean on
one of the fallen bandits.
"You didn't kill him... " Duo said carefully, trying not to scream in
frustration at someone who could knot him like a string without breaking
Heero frowned. "Quatre said not to."
"Oh." Duo glanced at a white-faced Quatre, who was staring at Heero.
"Well, I'm not complaining. I'm grateful." Maxwell's voice seemed slightly
shaky, but he smiled at Heero as he came around the rock and approached
him slowly. "You beat him good, he won't bother me anymore. I can lead
you out of these mountains and get out of here myself now."
He took the last few steps separating him from Heero and laid a gentle
hand on his forearm, smiling just so as he fixed violet eyes into blue.
"I can be... very grateful to you, Heero. I-"
The smile froze. Heero had looked at him, then dropped his glance down
at the hand on his forearm...
Duo snatched his hand away and took a few steps back. "I'll be grateful
to you over here, then, shall I? Erm, we okay?" He seemed ready to bolt.
Heero's expression had been horribly familiar, a frown, and a gaze that
was as empty as a freshly dug grave expecting a body.
"Hn." Heero turned back towards the road and started walking, avoiding
the pools of blood from his victims.
Trowa grabbed the horses' halters, soothing them with a whisper, calming
them to get them past the bloody remains of battle. He was frowning too.
He remembered hauling Heero to his feet when they'd met. Quatre had also
given him a very thorough physical examination. Heero had made no dangerous
gestures towards them at all. Which, seeing the result, was fortunate.
Why did he brush off Maxwell? Battle heat, Trowa supposed, and made a
note to himself not to get near the stranger for the next hour at least.
In the falling twilight, camp was set up with few words. Quatre and Duo
were both silenced by the day's events, and almost as taciturn as their
travelling companions. Duo sat down for three seconds as Trowa started
making the fire, then stood up again.
"I'm going to have a quick look at the road up ahead. It's been a few
months since I've been able to walk these mountains like I wanted to,
I'll make sure nothing is lurking ahead of us."
"That could be dangerous." Quatre said gently, a worried look on his worn
"If you hear screaming, then you were probably right." Duo grinned, flipping
his braid, and trotting off into darkness.
Quatre looked at Heero uncomfortably. He stopped himself from shivering.
The gentle healer could cast a mean mana bolt, kill when he needed to,
but death was his only enemy, and the cold executions of that day had
Trowa stocked up the fire well and hung the pot with the day's rations
on the hook he planted near it. He swung the pot over the edge of the
fire, and handed the long spoon to Heero, who took it with a curious frown.
The man glanced up. Trowa leaned towards him slowly, still holding on
to the spoon.
"Heero, Maxwell is a bit loud and flighty, but I don't think he's any
danger. I need him to guide me out of the Reg, it's been too long since
I've been here, and this place is dangerous. Do you understand?"
"Good. Do you think Maxwell is going to be a problem?"
Heero's eyes turned slowly to where Duo had disappeared.
"No. I don't think he's a problem. If he is... he's easy to kill if he
Trowa's lips tightened.
"Well, don't kill him unless you're very sure he tried something. Don't
exterminate him because he tried to make a pass at you, got it? We need
"Right. Stir this every few minutes or so, should be done in less than
Trowa stood, walked over to a shivering, wide-eyed Quatre, swung the healer
up into his arms and, ignoring his weak protests, strode off towards the
From high up the rock face against which they were camped, Duo looked
down at the scene with a small amused smile.
Then he straightened and disappeared as if the gathering dusk had etched
him out of existence.
An instant later and seven miles away, he reappeared at the entrance to
a cave, dropping out of the darkness like a cat. The entrance to the cavern
was partially reinforced with bricks and crude stone barriers. He whistled
gently as he strolled in and bent to open a chest against one of the walls.
The voice was tiny, high-pitched and grinding, like a baby rock, if such
things existed and could speak.
A small creature flitted through the cavern's darkness. It was about the
size of a large man's hand, a dark reddish brown with black chitin covering
its small chest and back. It was vaguely humanoid, small arms and legs
and a relatively big head, with crude features and big, bird-like black
Duo Maxwell paid it no attention. He was lifting out several objects,
putting some of them in the slim pack he'd been carrying since they left
the camp that morning.
"Master?" The creature flitted around his head. It had wings like a bat,
but it was obvious that it wasn't using those to fly, since it was hovering
most of the time, and the wings only beat on occasion.
Duo grunted as he pulled out a small ball of murky glass from the chest.
He strode towards the entrance of the cavern where a slice of moon cast
a watery glow through the gathering twilight. He took off his short black
gloves, covered the ball in his hands for a second, then tossed it in
the air, and it hung there, spinning. Its edges blurred and grew. Soon
Duo was looking at an evanescent globe hovering before his face.
"Master?" The small creature was twisting a bloody rag in its small hands.
"I've been taking care of Fardyo. His arm is pretty bad, I don't think
I can heal it all that well."
Duo looked intently at the image forming in the globe. The vardo appeared,
and Heero in front of the fire, dutifully stirring the contents of the
There was noise from the back of the cavern. The creature glanced at it
"Maxwell... " The rumble was dark with agony and anger.
"Isn't he amazing?" Duo murmured, his gaze on Heero's face as the vision
centred on him. "They're all pretty good. The shaman shot that bolt right
through the shields. I didn't get a chance to look at what he's using
yet. I'll have to steal one. But this guy... I wonder who and what- the
hell he is... "
"Is he the one that beat Fardyo?" The creature flitted before the vision.
"Yes. Barely broke a sweat. And I think there's a lot more where that
came from. I was beginning to think this was a stupid idea but I certainly
hit paydirt. Get your bags packed, imp. We're outta here."
"Maxwell!" The roar ended in a wheezing cough.
"Is that the new one then, master?" The imp glanced at Heero's image.
Duo frowned. "I think they all are. I'm sensing they're something of a
package... I just met them, I don't know their deal yet... "
A huge shadow leaned over him. The light of the rising moon fractured
on shards of broken glass armour.
"Maxwell... don't think you can leave like this." The snarl echoed through
"Now mister Fardyo!" The imp squeaked, suddenly shooting around the cavern
like an agitated bug. "Master has been very kind to you already! You are
much stronger now than-"
"I want to be stronger! You will make me stronger, Maxwell! We had a deal!"
"It only works as long as you beat them, Fardyo. It's more than a matter
of our deal. The magic will only work with their life-force." Duo didn't
bother to turn around, his eyes fixed on Heero, puzzled, calculating.
"You are much stronger than before, mister Fardyo." The imp hovered in
front of the huge man, making placating gestures. "Please do not ask for
more. You will heal and you will leave, and not bother Master again. Right?"
"What?" The big man clutched his mangled arm to his side with a grimace.
"I'll be bothering your master Shinigami plenty! Listen you little shrimp,
you don't scare me! You'll heal this arm and make me stronger-" the image
in the globe shifted, Duo frowned in concentration "- or I'll-"
Duo's eyes didn't move from the globe. His arm didn't seem to move either,
though his hand was now around the taller man's throat.
There was a sickening, ugly crunching crack. The imp barely dodged the
spray of blood that decorated the walls of the cavern and the young man
at its entrance.
"Master." The imp sounded weary. "Did you have to kill him? You put so
much work into him. Over three months! He was getting quite strong!"
"He was a waste of time." Duo was still looking at the globe's image.
He held the body single-handedly, without apparent effort, as if he'd
forgotten about it. "But good bait in the end. I caught myself something
much more interesting."
"But he will be arriving so soon! You won't have time to do much
to this new one!"
"That's the beauty of it, I probably won't have to. Though I do have a
few ideas. Imp, I'm looking for that nest of wyverns we saw a week ago,
where did they get to?" The body thumped to the ground, and Duo scratched
his chin with a bloody hand, leaving streaks like black paint in the silvery
"They moved to the north east, master."
"Oh right. Hmm, we can be there in two days. I want you to lure them towards
"And I want them to be in a fucking bad mood, imp. Got that?"
The tiny creature seemed to deflate. "Got it, master." It was hovering
lower and lower, it was about a foot from Fardyo's body.
"Good. That should be a nice warm-up. See what these boys are worth. I
want you to scout out the road ahead of us and spot any other potential
surprises we can throw at them." Duo's hand ghosted over his mouth, and
he absently licked the blood from a long finger. Then he made a face.
"... real waste of time... why'd I bother... " He flicked his fingers.
Something black, not unlike his glove, sprang from his wrist guard and
curled quickly around his hand before receding. His clothes seemed to
shake and twist around him, and a spatter of blood went flying from the
garment, the hand, the long braid, until the young man was once again
"Right. We'll play it by ear. I'm going back now. Imp, when you- ... imp?"
He glanced around. There was a small sucking noise instead of the usual
grinding voice. Imp was curled up against Fardyo's neck, lapping at the
blood still trickling from the wound where mangled vertebrae had pierce
through the arteries and skin.
Imp squealed as Duo drop-kicked it clean across the cavern and it smashed
against the far wall.
"Master?" It muttered, in a voice that can only be described as crushed.
"Pay attention, Imp." Duo growled. "Wyverns. Two days from now. You get.
"Yes Master." The imp slid down the wall, bounced on the ground and up
in the air again, completely unharmed, though a bit ruffled.
"Good. Keep way out of sight in the meantime, imp, the Nightwalker will
sense you a mile away, more than that at night. In fact, don't come anywhere
near us, I'll find you whenever I can. Don't forget to find us some more
friends to play with along the way. Just throw anything at us you can
find, I think they can handle it."
"Yes Master. Can I have some of Fardyo's blood now, please?"
Duo made a face as he reached for the sphere, its revolutions slowing
as returned to its previous state and dropped into his hand. "If you want,
but it's not all that good, I warn you."
"I'm hungry, master."
"Suit yourself, don't come whining to me if you get a stomach ache. Just
make sure you get those friggin' wyverns on us on the day after tomorrow."
"Well, back to Heero. I hope whatever he's stirring tastes better than
"It probably will, Master." Imp sighed, licking the wound again with a
grimace on its tiny face.
Heero lifted his head at the approaching footsteps. A few minutes later,
Duo appeared in the circle of firelight shouldering away the encroaching
"Well, it's all good up ahead. Where are the... others, no, wait, don't
tell me... " He looked at the vardo, which was swaying slightly, as Quatre
began to get vocal again. Duo grinned and sat down next to Heero.
"Well sounds like they're having a good time!"
"They're having sex."
"Yeeees, I gathered that."
"Quatre was hurt."
Duo blinked. "What, the little squirt was wounded? I didn't see anything."
"Trowa is helping him."
"Aaah." Duo looked at Heero carefully. This was as many words as he'd
gotten out of him all day, maybe he was thawing a bit. He catalogued the
strangeness of the actual conversation for future reference.
"You know... " He murmured, squeezing his hands between his knees and
rounding his shoulders, his braid dropping forward and swaying coyly,
"I was pretty scared too... "
"When that big brute swung his sword at you- " and you threw yours away
like an idiot "-I thought my heart would stop." His voice had dropped,
He glanced up at the utter absence of anything other than uncaring silence.
Heero was stirring the pot, and ignoring him completely.
A particularly loud cry rang out from the vardo.
Duo slumped forward, elbow on knees. They would take almost two weeks
to get out of the Reg (following his chosen itinerary, which could only
be described as the scenic and insanely dangerous route) and they would
be attacked on a nearly daily basis if he had anything to say about it.
If this was what a typical night was going to be like, this was going
to be a looong trip...
[chap. 3] [chap. 5] [back
to Maldoror's fic]